20th-Century Slavery Was Hiding In Plain Sight in El Monte, California

The El Monte sweatshop case exposed a web of corruption—and the enslavement of more than 70 Los Angeles-area garment workers

By Erin Blakemore
Smithsonianmag.Com | July 31, 2020, 10 a.m.

On August 2, 1995, a multi-agency task force led by the California Department of Industrial Relations raided a fenced seven-unit apartment complex in El Monte, California, a small community near Los Angeles.

(NMAH, Phillip Bonner, US Immigration and Naturalization Service)

On August 2, 1995, police officers raided a fenced seven-unit apartment complex in El Monte, California. They arrested eight operators of a clandestine garment sweatshop and freed 72 workers who were being forced to sew garments in virtual captivity. Smuggled from Thailand into the United States, the laborers’ plight brought a national spotlight to domestic sweatshop production and resulted in increased enforcement by federal and state labor agencies. The publicity of the El Monte raid also put added pressure on the apparel industry to reform its labor and business practices domestically and internationally. Read the full post by the author….

(Courtesy: Smithsonian Magazine)